Fantasy NASCAR: Polking's Picks for Sonoma

by Brian Polking on June 19, 2014 @ 07:31:35 PDT


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Before one lap was in the books last weekend at Michigan, a couple of my fantasy teams were in trouble. Brian Vickers got out of the groove and into the wall on Lap 1, and his resulting 42nd-place finish did serious damage to my lineups in both the Yahoo! and FOX games. A lackluster 18th-place finish from Greg Biffle didn't help the cause in those leagues either.

Jeff Gordon, NASCAR
Gordon elite at Sonoma, too

On the plus side, I enjoyed a strong showing in the Fantasy Live game. I spent a majority of my salary on Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, and those three drivers ended up being the top three scorers for the week. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Montoya ended up being a solid value pick as he scored a top-20 finish in his 2014 Cup Series debut.

Sonoma Raceway is this weekend's challenge, and while building a lineup for a road course can require a lot of adjustments, I actually love the road races from a fantasy standpoint, particularly in the Yahoo! and FOX games that limit the number of times a driver can be used.

Drivers like Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger are middle-of-the-road options at most tracks but are fantasy stars at road courses. There aren't many locales on the schedule that can transform a driver from basically irrelevant into a top-10 pick, but Sonoma is one of them. Personally, I welcome the chance to build a strong lineup while also benefiting my team long-term.

I will be changing my approach a bit in Fantasy Live this weekend. Normally, I will spend a bulk of my salary cap on three drivers that I feel can maximize my score by grabbing the bonus points for leading laps and running the fastest laps, and I will round out my roster with two cheaper options. However, Sunday's race is only 110 laps, so there aren't nearly as many bonus points available as there typically are. As a result, I will be distributing my available salary a little more evenly to try to build a roster with four drivers that can challenge for strong finishes.

Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing

Clint Bowyer (A): While he isn't necessarily the top option at Sonoma, Bowyer has been one of the most reliable drivers at the track, making him a perfect fit for this format that values final results above all else. His 9.1 average finish at Sonoma is the second best in the series, and he has six finishes of eighth or better in his last seven starts at the track, including five top-four finishes. I also have all nine starts remaining for Bowyer, so I'm not too worried about budgeting how I use him.

Marcos Ambrose (B): Ambrose is a no-brainer selection for my roster this weekend. He has been a top-five driver at Sonoma by every statistical measure, and he has been arguably the best road course driver since he joined the Cup Series. Meanwhile, it is unlikely I will use Ambrose at an oval track, so he is also saving a valuable start for a more dependable driver down the road.

A.J. Allmendinger (B): Final results count for a lot in this format, and Allmendinger knows how to finish near the front at road courses. In fact, he enters Sunday's race with four straight finishes of 13th or better at Sonoma. As is the case with Ambrose, Allmendinger probably won't make my starting lineup at any oval track, so it is an easy decision to start him this weekend.

Justin Allgaier (C): This pick came down to Allgaier or road course ringer Boris Said. While Said is the more accomplished of the two drivers, Allgaier is the safer option in my mind. For one, Said is notoriously hard on equipment and could end up wrecked as easily as he could end up finishing in the top 15. Allgaier on the other hand has enjoyed a lot of success at road courses in the Nationwide Series and has been finishing around the top 25 all year in the Cup Series. I'm going to opt for the conservative approach.

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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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